It has been brought to my attention that Right Wing Extremist group, namely Soldiers of Odin (“SOO”), have been gaining publicity in Dawson Creek, BC.
Some community members are bothered by this, while it seems that local media, at least one non-profit agency and local RCMP appear to be responding in a way that exhibits their ignorance on right wing extremist groups, or even worse that they may support SOO. There are many reasons that the RCMP and the community ought to be concerned about right wing extremist groups that are recruiting new members.
I was born in Spirit River, Alberta, and lived in Rycroft as a young child. I spent much of my life at Moberly Lake and Chetwynd, BC. In fact, I began my academic career at the Dawson Creek Northern Lights College campus. I now hold a Masters in Social Work and Juris Doctor (Law) Degree. I am a registered professional with both the BC College of Social Work and the Law Society of BC (Decision).
I care about the communities in the Peace River District, which is my home. Members of the Peace River District communities helped me crawl out of a personal hell related to addictions, gangs and violent extremism. I understand hate groups and their strategies very well, as I have been there.
For those who do not know, I have been doing work for many years countering hate groups and white supremacist groups. In recent years, this has including contending with right wing extremist groups that claim they are not extremists and tout themselves as community interest groups, and more specifically the SOO. Anyone, including the RCMP, who state there is no reason to be concerned about this group has obviously not inquired into the activities of the groups members. The SOO have been linked to, and gained permissions from, the Hells Angels.
My sources report that the Hells Angels in BC, Manitoba and Ontario have established a network of affiliations with right wing extremists; this of course is not new information as the Hells Angels themselves have historically touted neo-nazi views and symbols. In recent years, it has become known that the Hells Angels are refortifying their links and granting permissions to right wing extremist groups and gangs to wear gang patches within the Hells Angels’ claimed territories (turfs); this is because these groups are often involved in drug dealing and their violent tendencies, which is good for biker business.
My academic research was centred on right wing extremist groups in western Canada, which has been cited by world leading scholars. Additionally, I have been consultant for media, governments around the world, law enforcement, academics and experts who work in the field of counter terrorism and counter violent extremism work. My work has been presented around the world to communities and world leaders.
Most recently, I was commissioned by the Canadian federal government to publish a paper for UNESCO about issues related to right wing extremists groups. In this paper written for policy makers, I address the increase of hate group activities, which include SOO. I address issues such as media being duped into essentially promoting groups like the SOO as community interest groups, rather than what they actually are. Also, how community professionals and agencies are also mislead about the nature of these groups who rely upon media for information.
Groups like the SOO utilize a recruitment strategy that garners controversial media discussions and then the group’s representatives tactically present themselves through rhetoric and what they call evidence of their good will. These tactics for recruitment are not foreign to right wing extremist groups. In fact fascist governments and hate groups have relied upon this sort of public image for a long time, This is what we call propaganda.
UNESCO has stated (in this report), and reiterated in my paper for UNESCO and others, media plays a role in perpetuating speaking platforms for hate groups, extremists and terrorists [also this report and this one have relevant materials too].
For those who do believe that Soldiers of Odin are inherently a ‘good will’ organization, I suggest you take the time to read this analysis of the group that I have provided and in this one (here). Experts have labelled SOO as a hate group (including Dr. Ryan Scrivens, Dr. Barbara Perry and myself). In spite of SOO’s statements that they are not a hate or extremist group, the origins and the banner of this group is inherently hateful. Additionally, SOO as an organization and it’s individual members have been at the very least affiliated with organized crime groups and do engage in harassment and intimidation campaigns. All of this plus they are actively promoting and disseminating hateful messages about immigrants, Muslims in particular.
I am very disappointed in the Community of Dawson Creek that includes non-profits, RCMP and local media for the public statements that present as supportive of this right wing extremist group.
I believe the citizens of Dawson Creek, and in the Peace River District, ought to take note that this group is not as it claims it is. It is possible that members of the community have joined the group with good intentions, however this group has been engaged in para military training and has been known to hold war preparation training camps based upon the paranoid view that Canada is under attack of a Muslim invasion.
The Soldiers of Odin are a hate group in the opinion of leading experts, including myself.
**For those who are interested in learning strategies of how to effectively respond these types of organizations, you may contact me for further information and support.**
Here is a list of all the articles from the Dawson Creek newspaper The Mirror (note that not one of these articles offers an in-depth analysis that provides a balanced enquiry of the criticisms of the Soldiers of Odin). For whatever reason The Mirror seems to be providing the extremist group with a recruiting platform.
I was recently interviewed about the Soldiers of Odin taking foot in BC. I see this as very problematic, in spite of the groups desire to claim they have no ties, nor intention, similar to that of the group they claim to be a part of. This, of course, is illogical; and in my opinion demonstrates how full of shit these guys are.
I decided to write this first letter to my fellow Canadians, and the latter to Soldiers of Odin as a whole.
Daniel Gallant is a registered Social Worker who studies law, and has been acknowledged as a leader on topics pertaining to right wing extremism in Canada. Daniel spent nearly ten years trapped within the white supremacist movement in western Canada, and has since dedicated his life to undoing violence, racism and hatred. His work has been presented to, acknowledged by and referenced by world leaders, governments, leadings scholars, global organizations, and law enforcement.
Dear Fellow Canadian Citizens,
Don’t believe the hype.
Soldiers of Odin (S.O.O.) are not here to protect you, nor your communities. This group claims, and may even believe, they are working for the greater good. But, this is clearly not true. I would like to tell you a few things about their organization.
First, S.O.O. is the by-product of the European white supremacist network. The group was designed in Northern Europe by hate mongers that aim to ‘cleanse’ neighborhoods from ‘immigrant hordes’. The group’s primary purpose is to engage in war and instill terror into its enemies, as that is a nature of war; for furthering context Soldiers of Odin were formed to target immigrants, Muslims and Islam. However, the Canadian leaders of this group want us to believe they have nothing to do with, nor are they alike or kin to, the hate group that birthed their organization, a little over one year ago.
Basically the Soldiers of Odin will do whatever it takes to hide behind every mask they can. Plainly speaking, if the group has no kinship with its white supremacist roots, then why did they join under the flag, and trademark, of the Soldiers of Odin. There does not appear to be any logical and rationale that could make this a plausible truth.
Soldiers of Odin began in Europe, formed by white supremacists, about a year ago. Now under that same flag, Chapters of the organization have spread throughout Europe and North America; all hailing anti-immigration sentiments and embracing right wing rhetoric. But, the Canadian chapter wants the citizens of Canada to be permissible and complicit in their inherently racist organization. This way they can both hide and fulfill their organization’s purpose. Hiding in plain sight.
WHAT IS IN A ‘NAME’
Soldiers of Odin are making claims that do not hold up to even the most basic logic testing.
For instance, let’s for a minute consider the name of the organization, “Soldiers Of Odin”, in itself demonstrates what the group is, and sets out to do. Odin is the god of war that honors those who die in battle to protect their race and soil. This is the odinist way. Anyone who claims otherwise, either is lying or does not understand the narrative they are supporting, which in itself demonstrates inconsistent messaging of this organization, or perhaps lies. These tactics are only utilized by those who have something to mask and hide.
Additionally, the term “odinism” was the construct of WWII era theorists, who were Nazis. The Nazis developed and branded odinism out of an ancient Nordic Pre-Christian Religion. The ancient pagan ‘religion’ was not called “odinism”, it is Asatru (and other variations of the like).
The Nazis created a new branch of neo-paganism, odinism, that had erupted into a real threat all over the world in the 1980s, which disguises itself as a cultural heritage ideology. Yet, just another way for extremist racists to hide their true ‘color’ (pardon the pun).
In our era of contemporary right wing politics and global issues pertaining to extremism and terrorism, these sorts of groups are emerging everywhere. And without a doubt, they are a threat to those that fall into identifiable categories. By this dynamic alone, is kin to the same way that racism plays out in our communities; it is schismatic in nature.
The main difference between Astatru and odinism, in a very rudimentary explanation, is that odinists worship the Nordic god of war. Odin is set out to protect soil and bloodlines. By this logic alone, Soldiers of Odin are there to protect their own race and land. This alone should be understood as racist in two ways:
- a) Soldiers of Odin was created as an anti-immigration organization to fight against the Muslim community, and
- b) which seeks to protect its (O.O.) own kind, and the S.O.O. membership is primarily ‘white’ people.
There is another discussion to be had about Soldiers of Odin and their impact upon indigenous peoples as well. But that is a more complex area of discussion to have in the future. But let me assure you, this is also an area where this group demonstrates pure ignorance and inconsistent messages. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to many people the S.O.O. will disguise itself, and it’s true purpose, function and structure by convincing members of the public otherwise.
SKINHEADS AND RACISTS
Soldiers Of Odin’s leaders claim they have purged out the racists from their organization. This is, flatly, a lie.
I was a part of the white supremacist movement in Canada for ten years. I have been engaged with online monitoring of white supremacist organizations now for nearly 12 years. I assure you that there is evidence that proves the S.O.O. are soo full of poop, on this point alone. This is actually a ridiculous claim. They are flatly denying the presence of racists in their midst to the Canadian Public, while on the other hand have embraced white supremacists within their ranks; and remember that they were also founded by white supremacists.
White supremacists and racists have been praying to odin before beating and killing people on our streets, for decades. Some of you may even remember David Bowie’s 1987 album Tin Machine warning us about racist odinists in his song entitled: Under the God. This is not a new issue.
Not only do the Soldiers of Odin have white supremacists in their ranks, but the leadership does engage in many forms of rhetoric that synthesizes the nature and conduct of, and is derived from, white supremacist groups.
S.O.O. has engaged in social media attacks against those who oppose or critique their organization; and this is why I have chosen to speak out.
Community leader and long-time anti-racist Alan Dutton has been interviewed about his opinion of Soldiers of Odin Chapter that was recently started in Vancouver. Soldiers of Odin members and leadership has began referring to the opposition as enemies and then referring to their critiques as “antifa”.
This is precisely what fascist, nazi and white supremacists do. In fact, the rhetoric and dynamic of attempting to discredit someone, by labelling them as antifa, is birthed out of the white power movement.
Antifa are people who are anti-fascist. Already, Soldiers of Odin have launched social media attacks against those they label as antifa, which surely they will label me. This is very problematic for a couple of reasons:
First, when did we as a society begin to say that Anti-Fascists are a bad thing?
Second, did Canada not take a formal position against the fascist Nazi Regime in WWII?
How can Soldiers of Odin claim to be upholding Canadian law and values when they are attacking those who stand up against racism and fascism. It seems that Soldiers of Odin are working contrary to our legal system.
The fact that S.O.O. is attacking antifa online, is indicative of the similar conversations found on white supremacist websites. This is a core contradictory element of their organizations discourse. This does demonstrate the ideological lineage of Soldiers of Odin’s members. I do not think, nor expect, most Canadians can easily identify these issues. But, I can, as I spent nearly a decade immersed in that lifestyle; and more than a decade of unlearning the doctrine.
My years within the white supremacist movement in western Canada, to my profound social change, and now my current role as an educator, researcher, advocate, Social Worker and future career as a lawyer, compel me to express to you that this group, in my opinion, are a threat to safety of ALL Canadians. Especially to minority groups and vulnerable persons.
It has been demonstrated to me, through my research on the Soldiers of Odin that there is a grave concern that emerges in the influx of their membership, and the fact that many people who are not attracted to white supremacy, are being duped into this new organization.
I will support any group that keeps our streets safe for ALL Canadians. However, not only are the Soldiers of Odin unsafe because they are inherently racist and war-minded as an organization (as is demonstrated by evidence found in their organizations founder and group name), they have also proven to be comprised of liars, racists, extremists and bullies who belittle immigrants and anti-racists. This alone should raise flags about who and what the Soldiers of Odin are.
Canadians should be concerned with this group that is reminiscent of the Heritage Front.
Daniel Gallant (MSW, RSW)
Juris Doctor Candidate – 2017
Dear Soldiers of Odin,
It has come to my attention that you have now ‘set up shop’ in Canada, by rapidly expanding Chapters of your ‘organization’ across Canada. Let’s not waste time, nor mince words.
Your organization has already demonstrated dishonesty, incongruence and hatred against your fellow citizens. Your politics are divisive and the evidence is found in your online campaign, organizational conduct, onslaught of misinformation and the fact that you have members who are members of various Canadian hate groups (both past and present). Heck, even your organization’s name speaks to the violent nature of your organization’s intent: war for the sake of ‘blood, soil and honor’.
There are several things I would like to hash out with Soldiers OF Odin and air publicly, some of which is in this letter, and more in my letter to all Canadians. We will surely engage more discourse as time moves forward, as I have a wealth of knowledge, insight, education and stamina.
Your ‘respective’ leader (Joel Angott) indicated (in Metro News article) that you all uphold Canadian law, and our collective Constitutional Rights. Obviously your organization does not understand what a Constitutional Right is. There are only a few ways in how S.O.O. could possibly frame the façade that you all uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution. However, we both know this is complete bull-pucky.
If you had any clue what a Constitutional Right was, then you would not be attempting to claim your neighbourhood patrols protect Constitutional Rights in Canada. Let me explain further.
Canadian Constitutional Rights, are guarantees, in law, that Canadians receive to empower us as citizens. Guarantees that protect us of from the conduct and actions of government, police and authorities of certain variety. Moreover, Constitutional Rights are engaged as a legal protection that are sorted out through the legal system, not by walking through neighborhoods creating an environment of fear and intimidation.
I am sorry to inform you that you do not, in fact, nor law, protect Canadians’ Constitutional Rights. You are a group of self-appointed, not democratically elected, thugs who ‘patrol’ streets against our own citizens. These actions, even if righteous, are in no way connected to upholding our Constitutional Rights.
If S.O.O. were in fact upholding our Constitutional Rights you all would be working within legal strategies against the government and authorities, where there were Constitutional failings and pitfalls. You would not be involving yourself in right wing extremism and organized crime circles.
I do want to acknowledge, however, that we do agree on some matters. Our laws do not protect citizens well enough from pedophiles, rapists and other social ailments. But to be frank, I do not believe you are our solution to these matters. In fact, quite the contrary. This is where I find your organization very similar to white supremacist groups. Your group appeals to those people who are rightfully angered about the abuses and grievances they and their loved ones may have suffered. Soldiers of Odin capitalizes upon these vulnerabilities, and exploits citizens by doing so, while fooling un-suspecting people into your ranks. However, this mere tactic to garner public attention and community support is bound to fail because it is not transparent and congruent; rather it is coercive and manipulative.
Fortunately, there are those of us who have a deeper understanding through personal experience, education and formal research of how organizations like yours get started; and then move onto becoming a threat to Canadian public safety.
I hope that you take this input, how it is intended. My intention is to show you that your organization is publicly speaking out of line, on matters it knows not; and that the rhetoric you are attempting to sell is exposed for what it is: abusive.
Additionally, I do hope you become aware that there are those in our communities who care about sustainable public safety. Organizations like S.O.O., albeit believe they are righteous, are actually creating more divisiveness in our communities and are spreading hatred and fear in the very communities you claim to protect. The very fact that organizations of minorities are expressing concern, and your leaderships response is defensiveness and offensive rhetoric, both demonstrate and exemplifies your organizations nature; the intent of the Soldiers of Odin, hence, your organization’s name that pays homage to the god of war.
Let us, in summary, cut to the chase.
Soldiers of Odin membership includes racists, white supremacists, criminals and liars. S.O.O. was created to instil fear and conduct acts of violence in a war, that odin would adore. It is unfortunate that your predecessor, odin himself, would probably be very disappointed in your tactics and dishonesty.
Perhaps the next time you want to sell the Canadian public a stench ridden pile of steaming crap, you may want to consider a re-brand that does not overtly emulate the true nature of your group’s purpose: abuse, war & racism.
Daniel Gallant (MSW, RSW)
Juris Doctor Candidate – 2017
“I can’t think of a lower thing that a federal government can do than racially discriminate against … kids, know that they’re doing it, know it is harming them by unnecessarily removing them from their families, have the recommendations in their hands where they could have made it better and they don’t do it”
– Cindy Blackstock, xecutive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society
Here is a link to a poem I wrote about Cindy and her work after I met her at UNBC: CLICK HERE
I have written many blog articles, academic pieces and many declarative poetic narratives about my time in the white supremacist movement. I have also read and watched the work of others related to their experience with the white power networks around the world. I have not ever been so profoundly moved by an artistic piece as I have, to date, by the play written by David Gow called Cherry Docs.
(Photo by Jenifer Norwell CBC)
The Director of the play in Kamloops, Glen Cairns, featured Nigel Beardwood who played Michael Downy, a neo-nazi skinhead on trial for racially motivated murder. Todd Sullivan played Beardwood’s Jewish lawyer. Glen Cairns, the Director, is a survivor of a violent hate crime in Toronto back in the 1990s. The beating so severe his face had to be reconstructed. We were brought together by suggestion of a mutual friend, to whom I am grateful.
The play was moving. It was delivered with a vulnerable emotional connection, by a production and acting team that is passionate about life and the real social issues we face in society. This play is worth seeing.
Albeit, my boots are not Cherry Docs they are Oxblood Gripfast (used to be gettagrips) Rangers, which were one of the two main choices of boots selected by nazi skinheads since the 1980s. Both pairs are symbolically linked and represent the same thing, while also acknowledging there do exist some branding and functional differences. I will not discuss these distinguishments as I do not want to contribute to a promotion of the reasons why I selected these boots, but I will say that I always had a pair of Docs for one violent purpose and this style of boot for another violent purpose.
I could write a very long article on what I experienced but instead I encourage you to see the play that runs until Jan. 24 2016 in Kamloops. I also encourage you to read this article by CBC and listen to this interview with Glen, Nigel and Myself as we discuss our intersection, Cherry Docs (boots), in the theatre of life.
(Photo by Jenifer Norwell CBC: Right to left: Nigel Beardwood, Daniel Gallant, Glen Cairns)
The only sad part about this experience is that in response to the CBC’s article (as seen here) is riddled by comments by white supremacists. One particular individual, who is a member of a specific skinhead organization and is responsible for cowardice beatings of our community members and was charged with a hate crime, took to the internet to express his rejection of the healing nature of our collective cathartic experiences.
It is a good reminder for me to know that there are still people who are lost and cling on to the grips of power-over others through violence/intimidation, while riddled with denial and false consciousness about our shared humanness (as I once was)…there is still much work to be done…but at the very least even those who are where I once was are now discussing and engaging on the forefront (or at least periphery) with the work of deconstructing hatred in our communities.
I challenge any and all persons who believe in the things I once did to reach out and have civil dialogue in order for us to grow collectively, rather than holding onto to abusive ways that defeat the thing that we all similarly strive for: survival and a better life. I do not condemn those for believing what they do, but I do openly challenge the not-always-so-apparent logical fallacies and conspirators perceptions of those who dedicate themselves to a movement fuelled by hatred, fear and denial.
There is a better way to live.
First, I want to introduce you to my teacher and brother Gary Moostoos.
Before I tell you about the incident that screams discrimination against Gary Moostoos on behalf of OXFORD Properties Group Inc., I want to offer you a quick bio about myself, which will make more sense by time you get to the end of this article.
My name is Daniel Gallant and I am a former violent white supremacist. I was a street kid for many years in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. I suffered sexual and physical abuse as a child. I was angry and lost. Since that time I changed my life. At the age of 26 I started post-secondary school with a grade seven education. After my first year of school is when I met Gary Moostoos, which was about 12 years ago. Since that time I have worked as a frontline human services worker, group home manager, counselor, researcher and advocate. I now have a BA in First Nations Studies and a Masters in social work, which Gary Moostoos is included within. I am currently a student of law in Kamloops, BC. My public work can be found in the media throughout the world. I am currently the director of Exit Canada, which is a non-profit that assists other violent extremists to leave violent lifestyles.
I tell a story of how Gary and my other friend Jerry have taught me lessons. This story called Scars of Past won a writer’s award at the UNBC Weaving Words National Indigenous Storytelling festival in Prince George during 2013. This is attributed and dedicated to Gary and Jerry.
…so basically my point is that without the support and love from people like my teacher and brother Gary Moostoos I would likely have continued on with my violent rampages and not experienced the profound degree of change that I have been gifted. Now more about OXFORD, Gary and the issue at hand…
Gary Moostoos is a First Nations Cree Elder in Edmonton, Alberta; Gary is from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation.
Gary’s work is recognized across Canada and he worked along with Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings across the nation. Media, Edmonton Police Services and the community of Edmonton have recognized Gary as an elder, teacher and healer.
Gary Moostoos has dedicated his life to assisting and supporting indigenous peoples who are in need. Gary’s commitment to helping people started over a quarter century ago. He worked in a hospital supporting people whom were sick, then as a youth worker for many years he assisted youngsters in connecting with cultural practices and spiritual teachings. Gary currently is employed as he works with homeless populations and survivors of the residential school system.
Instead of recounting his words I am going to offer you Gary’s facebook post of an incident he faced this week at the downtown Edmonton City Centre:
“Oh my gosh I was eating noodles at City Center food court & a couple Security approach & stand over me as I eat. They asked for my name I asked Why? The one says that I looked suspicious & look like a person they banned. I asked who was this person & that they see me every day as I shop there & have to walk through there everyday to get to work. They then said I had to go. I asked to speak to the supervisor. Then she came with another fellow. She took a picture of me and said that I was associating with people who are banned & known criminals. I said I worked for the homeless and an Elder & I associate with whom ever needs support. Soon there was 8 of them & they asked me to leave my meal & go. I kept my composure I did not swear or was rude. 12 security escorted me out and said I was banned for 6 months. People were telling me they were banning native people all day. So when they approached me I turn my video on my phone. I wanna cry with all sorts of emotions running through me mostly NOW I feel how my inner city folks feel when they are targets. I don’t even wanna listen to the video. What should I do? I made a few calls but it leads back to one of the security that escorted me out… “
Aside from the racism Gary faces everyday in Edmonton, which I have witnessed first hand, he is now being condemned by a security team for merely doing his job. This is gross application of discriminative property rights in quasi-public areas conducted by a team of individuals who appear to have little regard for vulnerable populations and indigenous peoples.
I want to add a few more pieces of information about Gary Moostoos [see bottom for links to Gary’s work]. I include this link to my master’s thesis in social work because Gary has been monumental in my personal transformation from a violent white supremacist to a social justice advocate and practitioner. Gary has been instrumental in my life and the change therein. Moreover, I have gone on to help many people, which would not have been possible without Gary. Not only is Gary a healing practitioner for aboriginal peoples but he is also a practitioner for assisting all Canadians heal from racism and violence.
The conduct of the security team that works for OXFORD Property Group Inc. who manage the majority of the downtown Edmonton core has made a huge mistake by seemingly conducting themselves unprofessionally and abusing their powers as property owners, whether legally and or morally and ethically. Whether this conduct was manifested due to racial profiling or whether it was due to affiliation to ‘undesirables’ is merely seen as a minuet discrepancy or syntax. Either way OXFORD are reportedly attacking vulnerable peoples, Edmonton indigenous peoples and vulnerable people living in poverty, in the downtown Edmonton core who often access particular shops in the City Center Mall.
A direct and public apology to Gary Moostoos would be appropriate. A political gesture to show support for Edmonton’s homeless community from OXFORD Properties Group Inc. would also seem appropriate in response to this awful scenario. A gesture of this sort from OXFORD would both compliment and assist Gary Moostoos in his work of helping our society change. We as a society need to collectively move away from discrimination and abuse of powers. OXFORD should recognize the amount of work and the degree of Gary Moostoos’ commitment and work that he embodies.
Gary deserves more respect than this from those employed by OXFORD Property Group.
Here is a list of articles about Gary Moostoos’ work:
For related blogs written by Daniel Gallant please click below:
My name is Daniel Gallant, and I am a graduate student from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). My discipline of study is First Nations Studies and Social Work. I have worked as a counselor, group home supervisor, researcher, educator, and have been published in university presses, literary journals/magazines, radio, and peer reviewed journal throughout Canada, USA, and Germany. In addition, my social justice advocacy and activism work has gained national attention through radio, television, print, and online media sources. My passion for transformative pedagogy can be identified in my role as a researcher, practitioner, educator, writer, and activist.
My graduate research identified themes of disengagement identified within autobiographic stories of former-violent right wing extremists. This research is as important as it is unique for several reasons. First, it is a qualitative thematic analysis of creative non-fiction stories, which was developed in order to fulfill a gap in an underdeveloped area of research as identified by global counter-terrorist scholars. This study does not only fulfill an undeveloped gap within scholarship, but is further unique due to the methodological analysis and my socio-cultural position as a researcher and former violent right wing extremist. The design of my research is an auto-ethno-graphic study that illustrates a theoretical lens and analysis based within my personal connection, as a researcher, to the group I am studying.
Each former-violent extremist in this study had successfully disengaged from violent right wing extremist action; disengagement being defined as stopping violent extremist behavior. However, each of the individuals experienced more than mere disengagement, each individual had also achieved a shift of cognitive paradigm and social transformation. Each individual in the study has worked with marginalized, oppressed, and/or persecuted minority groups. Each individual has been recognized to be, at minimum, an ally to marginalized/oppressed/colonized groups, identified as such by the said group(s). My research was funded by Public Safety Canada through the Kanishka Project, which is a memorial research fund for the Air India bombing.
I have identified a list of thematic commonalities amongst the former violent right wing extremists in my study. This list adds some insights into potential resources that I recommend to be developed into progressive social change for former right wing extremists and others. Through my critical lens I articulate that right wing extremist ideological threads are rooted within the collective social consciousness of Canada and the USA. I establish this through personal experience, social policy and scholarship. Moreover, I explicitly challenge the dominant ethno-centric-mono-culture of North American society to consider how and why right wing extremist ideology is perpetuated through our socio-political structures.
A lot of scholarship indicates that progressive social change can most effectively be actualized and/or transformed if we shift pedagogically. In a global society that is now connected through the Internet it worth considering factors beyond the scope of my research that focalizes upon the role of technology within contexts of social transformation and cultural progression. New social network are emerging and current social networks within society are acculturating through technological advancements. I believe that as researchers it our duty to not only maintain ethical locations in social research, but to also facilitate collective education that does consider our global unification in a manner that addresses hegemonic and schismatic designs of the institutions in which we are located; this includes the sometimes controversial counter-terrorist/extremist scholarship. Given that the terms terrorism and extremism are culturally relevant terms it is worthy of acknowledgement that critical socio-cultural/political discourse(s) do have their place within this field.
If we as researchers, educators, and scholars do not contribute to progressive social learning we may be doomed to repeat age old, and sometimes archaic, social patterns. One area that I address through my graduate research is with First Nations in Canada. There are potential pitfalls in counter terrorist/extremist research and scholarship that could emerge from delving into context of First Nations extremism, or what may constitute as extremism. Needless to say extremist ideology and action can occur in any cultural group, but we as Canadians understand that First Nations people have faced assimilation, colonization, genocide, and ethnocidal projects administered by the state, church, academy, and society at large as a dominant ethno-centric force that maintains, even today, apartheid over First Nations populations.
Two years ago Google Ideas, “think/do tank”, Director Jared Cohen brought former-violent extremists together with survivors of extremist violence. As a result of SAVE, Jared Cohen established the Against violent Extremism (AVE) network that connects survivors of extremist violence with former-extremists, NGOs and media. AVE is currently Directed by Ross Frenett, he also works with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). I was introduced to AVE and Google Ideas after SAVE. I then contacted Jared Cohen directly. He immediately put me in contact with Ross Frenett, and others within the AVE network.
Since my introduction to this social network I have learned that my experience as a former-violent extremist is not an isolated circumstamce. I now have ongoing social connections with others who have experienced similar things and face some parallel challenges, more importantly there is bridging and social healing transpiring in relationships between former-extremists, survivors of extremist violence, governments, and NGOs. Moreover, a collective voice to concerns that I, and we as a collective, have in regards to public safety concerns, policy directions, information/intelligence on active extremists, and resource development for formers and survivors alike.
I was invited to New York City to the 2013 by Google Ideas to a Summit they developed on Conflict in a Connected World (CICW) at the Conrad Hilton, as a member of the Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network I was asked to present at a working think/do lab group at the CICW Summit.
On day one of the Summit I was re-acquainted with another Terrorism, Security, and Society (TSAS) reserach affiliate, Mubin Shaikh; as AVE members both of us were excited to share some aspects of work with others from activists, government, military, media, and other think tanks from around the world. I was introduced to TSAS by means of using a Google search on counter-terrorism research. Both of us presented a combination of our graduate research, use of social media within our counter-messaging-narratives, and activist work. The outcomes of our think tank labs included directions for development of cyber tools that could assist in tracking and building a centralized extremist database to identify issues faced when responding to extremist-messages, and potential of establishing sustainable counter-narrative messages.
My presentation covered a number of topics under my activism based work as a former-violent right wing extremist. My presentation included:
1) Interventions I have facilitated in response to youth being radicalized and recruited by white supremacists online. I have facilitated these interventions through social media by building my databases and providing that information to authorities that have then intervened and has resulted in decreasing and ceasing social media interactions between youth and hate groups.
2) Exposing white supremacists through profiling their online extremist activity.
3) Exposing a globalizing extremist network, diversified right wing spectrum that has gone largely unnoticed, and pluralism of ethnic groups involved and working with white supremacists. This network of pluralism in the extremist spectrum includes white supremacists who convert as extremist Muslims and extremist Hindus; this is also seen in the inverse where visible minorities join white supremacist organizations. As absurd and ridiculous this seems to be on the surface there is an intentional function of this dynamic and an ideological thread that ties these extremist groups together. This is a somewhat confusing and discombobulating circumstance that most people would not understand. Thus, speaks particularly to the value of including former-violent extremists into the dialogue of social policy in order to offer a bearing and resource to policy makers, government, and law enforcement in order effectively respond to extremist narratives and violence.
4) Exposing alleged former-violent right wing extremists such as the Canadian Airborne Commando 2 former-Cpl. Matt Mckay. I explained that I had invited former-Cpl. Mckay to participate in an intervention I was facilitating. The intervention was seemingly successful. Afterwards former-Cpl. Matt Mckay then began changing his position and indicated to the youth that it felt to much like the ‘old-days’ and should go target and kill an identifiable minority. Former-Cpl. Mckay then linked the youth with an active white supremacist hate group in the following months.
5) I presented about a case of a youth I had recruited over fifteen years ago from Dawson Creek, BC who was attending the College of New Caledonia in Prince George had began implementing his bomb plots to start bombing First Nations communities. As a result of my intelligence this man was not only convicted one time, but twice for manufacturing explosive devices; the latter charge was in 2010, in Prince George.
6) Issues with reporting hate crimes to local authorities in Canada, particularly in both BC and Alberta. I presented several examples of cases and the responses to these particular issues. I also summarized my experience in the differences of working with municipal police, RCMP to National Security and Military Police. As a result of this case it was recognized by our think tank lab that this issue seemed to be a global trend. Thus, we have identified a potential experimental tool that will be developed in the coming months in order create a database that will be accessible to me and others within the AVE in order to pressure appropriate responses from policy makers, governments, and law enforcement.
7) In conjunction with issues relating to the resistance of local law enforcement in BC and AB to respond to hate crime activity effectively, I also provided a summarization of the futility of a local Prince George project entitled Anti-Racist Protocol. This was a multi-level initiative that was to be accessible to the community to respond to hate crime activity, but was a failed and inaccessible resource even though promised to be otherwise by municipal government, provincial government, RCMP, and a local NGO. Moreover, I brought this to the attention of municipal and federal leaders who then deferred me to the RCMP and to trust their judgment. The discussion around the CICW Summit in context to my presentation was that others in Canada, and abroad, also faced similar challenges. Thus, dialogue around government and law enforcement accountability were further discussed.
8) Lastly, I presented that former-extremists lack resources after disengaging. There are no disengagement/de-radicalization programs available, no appropriate social services, nor funding available to establish such entities.
- I being an emerging Social Worker and experienced counselor and social service manager can fill some of these gaps. Moreover, my intention to go to law school was encouraged in order to effect long term goals of an emerging cultural group of former-violent extremists in Canada and globally. With hundreds of members in the AVE network we see that this is a growing trend. Disengagement is identified as a stage of terrorism-extremism. Thus, we will see more formers emerge.
- I have identified a need to build a scholarship (or alternative-like option) fund for former-violent extremists, whether from the far right-left or gangs, in order to contribute a stronger presence that will influence social policy. Already in the AVE, there are two of us in Canada who are engaged in social policy activism on a national level, graduate research, scholarship, and grass roots activism. The collective force of the AVE has brought an amplified credibility that will not be silenced by the political rhetoric of uninformed law enforcement and politicians.
Some of the other presentations at the Google Ideas CICW Summit included cyber tools such as:
1) Role of Social Media: social media offers a wide range of uses to counter extremist ideological messages, promotion of violence, government and corporation corruption; many other forms of information/intelligence sharing, and activism.
- Statistics were presented on how often social media tools such as twitter are utilized to expose conflict in countries that are being censored. This shows how valuable the role of social media tools are within context of human rights around the world. Discussion on how the Internet should be a human right around the world in an intriguing debate and should be further discussed in developed countries.
- The role that alternative media has played in exposing truth about dynamics within conflict areas that effectively unravels propaganda campaigns of particular government, rebel groups, and totalitarian forces.
- Blogger Analytics: example were offered of how small scale bloggers can become essential to National Security threats and intelligence through innovate reporting, even by amateurs. Some very intriguing and insightful example was presented. Bloggers who were able to discover new weaponry being manufactured in the Middle East to unveiling government corruption.
- Online uses to counter cyber bullying and threats. Stories were shared of how activists, bloggers, journalists, and hackers are repressed, censored, and victimized:
i. A story of a blogger from the Middle East who was kidnapped and tortured for his blogs.
ii. A blogger from Thailand who utilizes blogging and alternative media to counter bullying in a socially repressive society.
iii. One gay activist from Iran discussed how society and policy force queer communities to live double lives and to remain in ‘hiding’.
iv. One hacker told a story about his heavily secured computer and home was broken into by thieves and stole his computer equipment. He ended up hacking into his own computer while thieves were using his computer. Once he identified the location of his computer he was able to get it back.
2) Internet software tools offered by Google and Google Ideas:
- DDOS Protection: a software tool that is offered by Google that will prevent a website from DDOS cyber attacks. This resource can assist and stop websites from being shutdown or tampered with by malicious cyber attacks.
- Investigative Dashboard: a tool for investigators, journalists, etc. that has accessible databases on organized crime networks around the world. With this tool tracking financial trails is possible from country to country. This tool can assist with exposing and whistleblowing on corruption with military, government, and corporations.
- Anonymity Tools: there are a number of software tools to assist and facilitate anonymous activity online. This can be helpful for those engaged with alternative media sources, investigating potentially sensitive and dangerous individuals and networks, and a wide host of other applications.
- Google Proxy Tool: This new tool will allow those in countries with Internet repressive policies to by-pass government censorship online. By means of an individual in a repressed nation can connect to someone’s computer in a country that does not censor Internet access. This can be extremely powerful tool for those involved in alternative media, whistleblowing and necessary human rights activism. Of course the applications offered by this accessible software built right into your web browser and can be connected by two simple clicks is only limited by the users themselves.
In addition to the wealth of resources that were introduced and presented at the CICW Summit, it was also an amazing experience to network and connect with others. I was able to network with individuals from the USA, Thailand, Canada, and the Middle East that I will surely be engaging with for future projects; most likely more unpaid, but extremely necessary work.
This experience also gave me insights into the importance on educating youth in my own community on how accessible the wider world actually is. It is very possible and even likely for any individual to select a passion they have and to follow that through as a developed skill set in order to contribute to online social movements.
The two most important statements from the CICW Summit that resonated with me. First was that the online world is “reality.” I have often heard that one of the troubles with cyber spaces are that people lie and pretend to be who ever they want to be. This reminds me of how many people I have met in real life who pretend or hide who they really are. The Internet is no different. The latter was that the private sector can respond much more quickly to extremism/terrorism than any law enforcement or government can. Private sector responses can include a number of responses like research, counter-narratives, intelligence, and development of tools.
Networking at Social Event
Google Ideas and the Gen Next Foundation who participated in the CICW Summit hosted an amazing social event. At this event I was able to make some amazing connections. The primary contact I want to speak to is a member from the US Department of State (US-DOS) who used to write for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) magazine. I have now been in contact and will continue to nurture a relationship with US-DOS and SPLC as much as possible. I have been compelled to continue my activism over the last half a decade by the inspiration I have gotten from the work of the SPLC; never in my life had I thought I would make a direct connection to the SPLC.
Other connections include other bloggers who have now inspired me to engage with a more professional, innovative, and sophisticated investigative process and delivery for my social media articles. I am truly inspired by the work of the world leading counter-extremist and whistleblower bloggers I have met.
Google Ideas and AVE Offer Me Gifts
I want to offer a quick story of how integral Google Ideas and the AVE have become a part of my life. First and foremost, these collectives offered me freedom from isolation both in real-life and virtual spaces within context to my research, activism, and writing (creative non-fiction, scholarship, and blogs). In regards to my research Google Ideas and AVE have connected me to the federal government and has resulted in receiving some research funding. Without this funding I would have had to drop out of graduate school. My social experience has been plagued with poverty and adversity. Without strong socially privileged connections it can be debilitating attempting to acquire funding for post-secondary education, university in North America is most accessible to those who are socially privileged.
More personally the CICW has allowed me to leave Canada for the first time legally. Not only was this travel experience rich as a cultural experience it also offered me new networks and even more importantly solidify old connections. I was also able to introduce a friend of mine who runs a youth alternative media source, Gen Why Media, to the CICW Summit. Fiona Rayher is engaged in very necessary projects. One project in particular she is working on is called Fractured Lands. This documentary is about a young lawyer and emerging First Nations leader, Caleb Behn, and how his traditional territory is being impacted by oil and gas industry.
Specifically this documentary educates about the process of frac-ing in northeastern BC, which is only one process of many that has been devastating the environment and people. I was honored to share the network and connections I have been gifted to another strong leader. I am grateful that Fiona Rayher joined the CICW Summit. Her presence is timely as the Summit focused on digital conflict, censorship, and extremism. With the events happening in New Brunswick where First Nations peoples are being threatened yet again by military action, much like the Oka Crisis, brings into context as what constitutes as being extremist-terrorist action and messages.
As a former-violent extremist who has had ties with two separate terrorists in Canada and as a researcher, activist, and writer I boldly proclaim that First Nations are NOT inherently extremist just because they oppose and counter the dominant societies collective efforts to exploit and pillage environment and humans in a colonial force. There are many examples of how Canada as a nation, even in my life time, have repeatedly systemically violated, abused, and murdered First Nations peoples so severely that I am often deeply disappointed and disturbed that I was born into a social class that persists to exploit environment and people for profit; and will go to extreme measures to do so. I am hopeful that there will be dialogue that differentiates First Nations legal right to protest over land claims etc, and not be targeted under counter-terrorist legislation.
Lastly, another gift I received from the Google Ideas CICW Summit was a re-introduction with some people who had deeply impacted my life as a youth. I had ran away from home at age twelve because of the traumatic environment I was raised in. I was physically and sexually victimized as a child. After I left home I survived and supported myself through criminality. As a result I ended up incarcerated for eighteen months. I was then forced into a foster home for six months. I was housed with an amazing family, Jill and Dave Thomas. I left at the end of those six months, never to talk or see the Thomas’ again.
Two years ago I did a facebook search for the Thomas family. I located and contacted Jill through facebook. She was ecstatic and very confused. She told me that years after I had moved out they always assumed I would die on the streets. Then one day the RCMP showed up at the dental office where she worked. When I lived with them she had me in for dental work. She said the RCMP then requested my dental records. She inquired if they had found a body. The RCMP refused to confirm or deny any events and demanded the records. She gave them the records and reconciled with the fact that their foster son had died. Needless to say the Thomas family was shocked when I sent them a facebook message nearly two decades later. We became facebook friends and in frequently talk online with an intention to meet up one day in the future.
Well the day came. I posted a facebook status about my attendance at the Conrad Hilton hotel in lower Manhattan in New York City for a Google Ideas CICW Summit. Jill and Dave Thomas just happened to be in New York City at the same time. After twenty years of not seeing on another, and nearly fifteen years of thinking I had died, we got to hug and drink coffee together at the Conrad Hilton. This gift I offered just speaks to the full circles my life continuously offers.
Through Google Ideas and AVE, as mentioned earlier, I was granted funding for my research. That funding has assisted me in completing my graduate degree but also gave me another gift. It provided me with an opportunity to pay for tattoo cover-ups. I have covered one swastika tattoo on my arm, and am now in process of covering a giant swastika on my stomach. The tattooist is Rene Botha at LiquidAmber Tattoos in Vancouver. Rene is a superbly talented artist, amazing musician, and a beautiful person. She has an inspiring story and vast experience both personally, professionally, and creatively in her anti-racist contributions. As a result of my tattoo cover-ups I was offered to begin filming a documentary on my social transformation and the work that I do as a former-extremist, researcher, writer, educator, and activist. We will possibly be seeking funding for this coming project in the near future. If it were not for Google Ideas this would not have been possible.
The reason this connection to Google Ideas and AVE is important for me as a northerner is that we do have active white supremacists both on our streets and in online spaces. These individuals have pushed back in response to being exposed and have tried to openly deny their violent ideological positions; however, they have continued with their online presence and promoting violent ideologies in our communities.
I have been told by Prince George Mayor Sherry Green, former Public Safety Canada Minister Vic Toews, provincial representatives from Embrace BC, and RCMP to trust local law enforcement. However, local law enforcement and the specialized hate crimes team has proven to me, and from the feedback I have heard, the community is not happy with the fact that law enforcement only responds when pressured by media, which has often been a result of my advocacy work. Yet, people are not surprised of this because of the tarnished reputation of the RCMP due to racism, excessive force, and gender discrimination.
In my academic perspective this seems to be structurally tied to a dominant socio-political worldview that results in subtle outcomes of hegemonic systems and marginalizing responses. If the city of Prince George, the Province of BC, and the federal Government of Canada whole heartedly believed in the directives they proclaim we would not see a sort of white-privilege” that seems to exist for ‘white’ terrorists and violent extremists. Actually the federal governments choice to repeal Section 13 from the Human Rights Code indicates that quite blatantly they believe that white supremacists right to free speech is more valuable than an effective piece of legislation, namely Section 13, that has had a 100% conviction rate for Lawyer Richard Warman.
For me as a Canadian citizen it reminds me that the same authorities who have dropped the ball on missing First Nations women are the same authorities that are effectively disregarding racist extremists. In a country founded on apartheid policies in order to control the ‘Indian-Problem’ we do not seem to have advanced all that far.
That being said I commend the government for acknowledging its role, The PM’s apology speech, in facilitating genocidal and assimilation programs against First Nations people. The fact that I can publicly say what I think does show how progressive our democracy has become in contrast to yester-year. This however does not in any way negate the very issues I am contending as a researcher/academic, advocate, writer, and educator. The responses from governments and law enforcement in the north are nearly indicators that we as a society have to do a lot more work. Extremist messages need appropriate responses to counter violent action and ideologies.
I am being identified as a leader in a global context to some of these issues. I am hopeful that local authorities will recognize this and begin to work with me rather than attempt to bully and intimidate me into acting in a manner as they see fit, which essentially downplays the threat of violent extremists who believe they are at war with our society. What people sometimes fail to realize is that our society is based upon white supremacist law and culture. A culture of dominance does breed violent demeaning worldviews towards those who are often ‘other-ed’ and marginalized.
Decidedly, I am considering application to study law rather than pursuing doctoral studies due to the apathetic response from law enforcement and governments in context to extremist action; and some of the concerns I have with the status quo within the academy. It seems that unless you are from Southeast Asia, Muslim or First Nations it is ok to commit acts of extremist violence. Perhaps it is systemic ignorance that leads to the ineffective and apathetic approach to investigations and prosecution of hate crime activity.
Furthermore, all of the recent hate crimes charges against extremist white supremacist group Blood & Honor in Vancouver, BC, which includes a Filipino man who was lit on fire, beating of an aboriginal woman, and a brutal assault on a black man were failed hate crimes; all hate crimes charges were dropped. This means less sentences if these people are in fact convicted.
I have followed and profiled each one of the individuals charged with these hate crimes and offered my data to RCMP. Moreover, one of the ex-partners of a racist skinhead charged with one of these mentioned hate crimes informed the hate crimes unit that I had more information for them, which could help substantiate the hate crimes charge. Of course the hate crimes team did not contact me and in fact have attempted to take an authoritarian stance in regards to my activism.
What they do not realize is that no matter how much they try to ignore me my work will continue and until authorities respond appropriately and honor they own stated proclamations in the media and advertised campaigns I will not stop. I am here for the long haul. I will complete law school and I will begin to advocate against the inherent racism and gender discriminatory culture deeply rooted within the RCMP. I will become a force that will affect international pressure upon them until they begin to respond to right wing extremism/terrorism in appropriate manners.
There are many solutions that can be implemented within the systems in order to understand the very things government and law enforcement are exemplifying that they do not actually understand. Acknowledgement of the structural issues needs to be acknowledged then addressed. Moreover, accountability of honoring their own words must be delivered especially in context of public safety and potentially national security.
This piece is written by feminist activist Danielle Paradis. She was assisting Chevi Rabbit today, who had organized From Hate to Hope rally. After Chevi suffered the trauma of a hate crime he organized two consecutive years of a successful and necessary event. I was honoured to be a part of this walk.
The man who embraced me was my brothers: former Chief Jerry Goodswimmer and Gary Moostoos.